Whitman Faces First Major Test as EPA Administrator

Will She Buckle to Industry Pressure to Overturn Pesticide Settlement that Protects America’s Children?

WASHINGTON, DC (February 22, 2001) - Christie Todd Whitman, an avowed environmental moderate, will soon face her first major test as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The pesticide industry has mounted a campaign to persuade Whitman to back out of a lawsuit settlement agreement, reached by her predecessor Carol Browner, which requires EPA to review specific pesticides that may be hazardous to infants and children. Whitman will have to make a decision either to uphold the agreement or repudiate it by March 9.

The lawsuit -- brought by NRDC, the United Farm Workers, the Breast Cancer Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility (Bay Area) and several other environmental organizations -- challenged EPA’s failure to review the safety of a range of pesticides used on foods, in homes and in schools. EPA and the groups announced the settlement on January 19. The suit, Natural Resources Defense Council et al. vs. EPA (N. D. Cal.), sought to force EPA to honor its statutory obligations under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and a related 1988 pesticide law. EPA failed to meet several of the laws’ deadlines and requirements, compromising the safety of farm workers and consumers, particularly children.

"Christie Todd Whitman has a chance to show her true environmental colors as EPA administrator," said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC’s program director. "Will she side with America’s infants and children, or knuckle under to pesticide industry pressure to kill these needed safeguards?"

"This settlement does nothing more than require EPA to live up to the law," said Erik Olson, an NRDC senior attorney. "If Christie Whitman isn’t even willing to agree to that, our worst fears will be confirmed."

Notes from a February 22 telephone press briefing, featuring Gregory Wetstone, Erik Olson, Phil Schilero, chief of staff for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Dr. Robert Gould, president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility (San Francisco) Bay area chapter, will be available to reporters upon request.